In North Carolina Courts, the most important determination for the judge in a custody case is what is in the best interest of the minor child. North Carolina’s age of majority is 18 years old. Therefore, a child custody order governs visitation until that child turns 18, or the child is legally emancipated, whichever comes first. Common questions our family laws are asked include what to do if the teenager does not want to visit the other parent, and at what age can the teenager make his or her own decision regarding visitation. 

Most custody orders described in detail the specific dates and times that each parent will have visitation with their child. As with any order of the Court, the parties are expected to follow the terms to the best of their ability. However, there are instances when the child refuses to go visit with the other parent. For parents, it can be a tough balance between motivating their child to go and avoiding being in contempt of a court order. Depending on the age of the child involved, some children figure out quickly how to accomplish their own visitation goals and take advantage of the situation.  

In North Carolina, there is no specific age requirement dictating when a child can decide on his or her own to stop the visitation contained in a valid Court Order. Just as a child cannot choose who he wants to live with, he cannot choose whether he has to abide by a visitation schedule. A Judge, however, may consider a child’s opinion if the Court considers the child to be mature enough and the child’s opinion is based upon reasons that are valid and sensible in the Court’s opinion. While a child’s maturity is not defined by age, North Carolina case law suggests that a child who is ten or older may be able to provide insight into a visitation schedule. The older a child becomes, the more a Court may be willing to listen to that child’s preferences. To be clear, a child’s preference is not binding on the court as it is one of hundreds of factors a judge can consider in making a custody determination.  

For parents going through a divorce with teenagers, one thing to consider is that a teenager’s schedule may differ significantly from that of a younger child. While many people believe that children need a stable, predictable schedule, teenagers have many external factors that may require flexibility in order to put that child’s needs and interests first.  A few things that may impact a custody schedule for a teenager are: 

  • Increased school involvement with assignments and homework
  • Extracurricular activities and hobbies
  • Community service and projects
  • Sports
  • Relationships with friends
  • Job opportunities
  • Visiting and researching college options

Are you having difficulty with a teenager and visitation? Whether there is a Court Order in place or not, Hatcher Law Group is ready to discuss your concerns and options. This information is not to be used as legal advice. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance with child custody issues, contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today.